Hillcrest coaches say multisport athletics beneficial, expert agrees, with rest to bodyAug 23, 2021 09:21AM ● By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High School senior Isabella Andrews is known for her high-energy play and tenaciousness on the basketball court. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
In elementary school, many young athletes are encouraged to focus on one specific sport, but that’s not what Hillcrest High School coaches recommend.
“We’ve got kids that wrestle, play basketball and a bunch do track and field,” said Husky football coach Brock Bryant. “That’s what we’re pushing; we want multisport athletes. It makes the school better and when you’re doing more sports as an individual, that helps you out if you’re going to college. Colleges want to see multisport athletes; it means that they can balance a lot more than just one sport.”
He said coaches love to see the crossover between sports because each sport challenges student-athletes in different ways and the skills developed such as agility, balance, coordination as well as mental preparation may translate to other sports.
“I think (student-athletes) learn how physically to be a better athlete, like in track they learn how to run; in football, they learn how to be tough so when they go to basketball, they can run and be tough in rebounds. It just complements each other,” Bryant said.
Boys soccer coach Brett Davis said that he has several players who also play basketball, golf and run cross country and track. Last year, one of his soccer players was the kicker for the football team.
“It’s good for them,” he said. “They’re still having a lot of development, physically and mentally. I had a young man and basketball was his first love. But the footwork that he learned in soccer translated to the basketball court. I think there’s a lot of positivity in being a multisport athlete, if you can balance the time.”
Davis said learning multiple sports is important for younger athletes. He uses the example if someone is short as a freshman, that athlete may be steered clear of basketball. However, he said to let the student-athlete pursue the sport, because he will learn the skills and later, he may “shoot up 10 inches.”
He said being trained by several coaches with different teaching methods and interacting with other teammates is important in the development of the student-athlete.
“Learning from different coaches and the things you get taught in those situations, is good. You have to be smart enough to know how to balance, especially because your primary focus is school,” he said. “It seems like Hillcrest is one of the last schools where I see multisport athletes because most club sports are really pushing the whole idea of isolating your athletes playing year-round.”
In the Aspen Institute’s State of Play 2018, the report states that “multisport play is making a comeback.” In the first time in four years, the number of children in a focus group increased from playing one to at least two.
“This represents progress in an era of early sport specialization, when families are often under pressure to focus their child on one sport before the end of grade school,” the report said, adding that multisport play has been the focus of more than 40 organizations, including some of the largest professional leagues and dozens of national governing bodies of sport, to formally endorse multisport play for children.
While Davis coordinates with cross country and track coach Scott Stucki to work together to ensure athletes aren’t overworked since some soccer players also run track in the same spring season, he advocates his athletes to “get a little bit of rest and recovery.”
Finding the time between multiple high school sports and a club team is difficult, acknowledged Dr. Robin Cecil, a physical therapist and managing director for Sport Ready Academy, who recently shared with about 50 Brighton High soccer players how to train as a high-performing female athlete and how to take care of their bodies.
“Single sports specialization is actually leading to a greater number of injuries in athletes, and so that’s one of things that they’re saying is beneficial for more multisport athletes,” she said. “As a multisport athlete, you can give yourself different neuromuscular training. Basically, you don’t overtrain the same muscles and the same joint, with the same movements on a regular basis.”
However, as a former three-sport college athlete, she has identified difficulties in being a multisport athlete. One common scenario she has seen is that there is no step between a youth recreational league and a club team.
“The problem is you’re wanting to be a multisport athlete, but yet you have an organization that is training year-round. So, then you’ve got multisport athletes playing on top of each other in the same season and that becomes destructive, just to the point where they’re playing high school and (they’re playing for) the club team, it just becomes overtraining,” she said.
For example, she said club soccer tryouts typically are held in the spring and student-athletes play all summer long. Then, the girls high school season begins in August and runs through October. Then, the athletes switch back to club soccer.
“That is actually not a good thing. They need to have two or three sections of three to four weeks off and if you have coaches that are aware of that, then they’re very good with that. But a lot of kids need to just take it off and they need to just listen to their body. What happens if they don’t, then they get fatigued,” she said.
Cecil said that when a student-athlete plays high school soccer and follows it with high school basketball, that’s good since they are different seasons of play.
“But if you play high school basketball and you’re playing soccer all year-round, then all you’re doing is adding basketball on top of that so that’s not a good thing. It’s just too much for these kids,” she said, adding that it can even “become destructive” as they enter more serious training their junior and senior high school years.
Cecil said that there is a “concept of workload.”
“Whenever you overload your kids, there’s a difference between overloading for progression. There’s also what’s called non-functional overreaching, where you train too much and where all the things you’re doing to build your body up is actually destructive, and it’s breaking it down because there’s not enough time to recover,” she said.
The fatigue factor plays into many ACL tears, Cecil said.
“There’s a lot of things that people are doing for ACL injury prevention, but another factor is their genetics and the other one is workload. If the quads and hamstrings never have time to rest, and they’re always at high intensity, then they can’t support them,” she said.
That is what Hillcrest High multisport athlete Isabella Andrews thinks may have caused her ACL tear this past spring while playing soccer.
“I often use sports as a break from all the craziness; I stay active and in shape and I meet people with similar interests,” she said. “But I think I definitely overworked myself and didn’t take a break. My body just gave up. It’s hard to step back to rest. Some coaches don’t understand that my body is overworked and every once in a while, I should take an active break.”
Andrews said that with her love of playing soccer and basketball, and this spring, trying pole vault, on top of club soccer, she “never really took a true break.”
As a result, Andrews won’t be able to play goalkeeper this fall during her senior year in high school. She hopes next year to be able to play in college.
Meanwhile, Andrews is focusing on her recovery, hoping to be cleared to play for the basketball season.
Girls tennis coach Creighton Chun, who himself was a multisport athlete, coaches girls who play several sports at Hillcrest.
“You want to encourage people to play multisports,” he said. “It just makes them better people and better athletes.”